KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The holidays are over, which means in a few days it will be back to school and back to work for Tennessee‘s football team.
I hope everyone had a safe and fun New Year’s celebration.
Let’s recap some of the stuff that happened during the break.
* Recruiting keeps moving
Coaches got a chance to spend a few days with family over Christmas, but the recruiting grind continued in preparation for what should be a very busy January.
Athlete Malik Foreman of Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport verbally committed to the Vols on Dec. 28.
Foreman had previously been committed to Vanderbilt, but switched to the Vols when he picked up an offer from the new staff.
Foreman is likely to be a cornerback for Tennessee, although he could also play receiver.
Meanwhile, our partner GoVols247 and other sites reported that Devaun Swafford, Foreman’s teammate, had been offered an opportunity to “grayshirt” and enroll in January 2014.
At least one player who had been committed to the Vols has dropped off the board. Junior college defensive lineman Ben Bradley has reopened his recruitment and is now considering other teams after originally planning to choose between UT and Missouri.
While Bradley is no longer listed as a commitment, offensive tackle prospect Dan Skipper is still on the board, albeit as a “soft commitment.” The prospect from Arvada, Colo., has been a Tennessee commitment for six months but has said he plans to take all of his official visits.
* Final coaches arrive to fill out staff
New Tennessee assistant head coach and defensive line coach Steve Stripling completed his duties as interim head coach at Cincinnati when the Bearcats beat Duke 48-34 in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27.
We expect that some other graduate assistants will arrive from Cincinnati as well.
Receivers coach Zach Azzanni will begin full-time work with the Vols after coaching Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers lost to Nebraska 20-14 on Tuesday.
* Draft decisions
Big nose guard Daniel McCullers announced via Twitter on Tuesday night that he would return for his senior season rather than enter the NFL draft. That leaves only fellow junior defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore as a question mark, although it would be a mild surprise if he decided to leave.
Quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter are all expected to be going pro, although it’s odd to note that only Hunter has publicly announced or confirmed his intentions. And even Hunter’s “announcement” came in the form of a one-word tweet.
Other roster movement could be cleared up in the coming days, particularly the status of Deion Bonner and Omari Phillips, who were suspended for all or part of their freshman seasons by Derek Dooley.
* Stories you may have missed.
The Central Michigan ties of Butch Jones’ first coaching staff
Of the nine on-field assistants and one strength coach hired by Jones to his new staff at Tennessee, all but two have passed through CMU at some point in their careers.
Jones said during his introductory press conference that he wanted the best assistant coaches in America. But as his hiring choices since then have made clear, Jones believes that many of those coaches have been with him for years.
“I know everyone on our staff. I understand their background, their pedigree and where they come from,” Jones said. “The great thing is they know me, they know my expectations. So we can hit the ground running, and not spend time coaching coaches.”
How Butch Jones and his staff came to embrace social media
Few, if any, SEC athletic departments have a more aggressive social media strategy than UT. In Jones, the Vols have a coach who has been tweeting before most people even knew what it was.
The 2012 season: A year in a review, and a look at the players Butch Jones will inherit
New coaches don’t like to dwell on the past, and their arrival promises a fresh start for Tennessee players who have endured three consecutive losing seasons. But as the calendar turns over to 2013, it’s worth reviewing the tumultuous final season of former coach Derek Dooley.
The year that started with so much optimism may offer lessons for the new staff as it tries to reverse one of the worst stretches in modern Tennessee football history.